The Trials and Tribulations of an Autistic Band Photographer: Part 1: Meeting the Band

Firstly, don’t give me any of that person-first language garbage. If I want to say I’m autistic I’ll say I’m autistic. I actually have autism and you don’t – so leave it.

Now that’s all over with I can continue. I’m not going to describe every autistic symptom that affects me as a band photographer; instead I’ll just focus on my lack of social skills.

It seems like such a small issue but people with autism can become very depressed about not knowing how to speak to people. Some focus a lot of not being able to get a date but for the moment I don’t even want to try that, because I struggle to get along with people at all. I’m not sure if I like anyone that way. I’m so blinded by my own rage at people and myself about getting into arguments or feeling like everyone is trying to manipulate me, that there’s not a whole left to find out I can feel that way for people at all.

One of my major problems is being able to meet and talk to the bands I love the most. I was even told it was such a small nuance and it is but I have to work really hard just to achieve something other fans can just go up and do without even thinking about it. They want to do it so much that they bound up to the band. Then there’s me. Sometimes I’ll ignore the fact that I want to go up and say hi but something is holding me back. Other times I’ll be torn apart by it, usually much later on in the night and after I left the venue.

Ever since I was 18 or 19 and I still hadn’t made any friends of my own there were a few people from bands who I considered my friends. I met the singer from Funeral For a Friend that way. It took years to have a conversation with him but I never gave up and now I know him, and I do not take such a friendship for granted. Then I started to become friends with their fans and didn’t care so much about meeting other bands. Recently I’ve started to feel alone again and have tried to meet bands again. Sometimes it works and sometimes it just feels like the most impossible goal to reach.

I do know some band members and have great times with them but it’s getting so much harder now to meet new people. I’m no longer in a music scene I feel comfortable with. The emo/punk scene was just so familiar that you knew that even if you didn’t know somebody you soon will or that you would probably get along because we all listened to the same bands, and we all dressed like each other. It was the whole all ages thing too. I could rock up to an all ages gig alone and end up talking to about 10 people while waiting in line.

Now I go to a gig alone and I stay alone, unless I know someone from the band. Last time though I did have some middle aged fans taking pity on me but I felt too uncomfortable about the age gap. Sometimes I don’t realise how young I still am and look.

Although I can get really down about this and just feel like it’s an impossible task to accomplish and that maybe the band members don’t even like me enough to want to say hi, I still want to try, to work on it so that one day I can meet them and talk to them. I don’t think anyone without autism or social anxiety can ever understand how lonely and depressing it gets for us who literally don’t know what to say to people, unless we’re impulsive and thus say something embarrassing which we will regret or talk about a special interest which people may find odd or immature, or give us the ‘nerd’ label. The depressive episodes that focus on these facts can be horrendous. I used to want to step into a busy street and quickly end the pain. Now I just play suicidal scenarios over in my head. At least I know now that my thoughts are false and my depression won’t last forever. Then I become manic and act like I already know the people I wish I knew and that I’m always going to be capable of talking to them.

The only time I’ve been able to go up to a band member and talk with ease was when I was taking Ritalin. But the last time I was on Ritalin I felt I was talking too loudly and speedily and was so very intense. I don’t think taking speed should be the answer to my problem, though sometimes I think it’s the only answer. And by ‘speed’ I’m talking about actual speed, not Ritalin.

I could always go on a longer acting dose of Ritalin which means it won’t all go into my bloodstream at once but take its time. I would really love to have my symptoms more under control but with a under medicated mood disorder it just might make me even more depressed.

I am depressed right now. I went from depressed to angry to more euphoric to highly anxious and again to depressed. So I will just have to recover again.

I’m just getting sick of missing opportunities of meeting or talking to band members when I go through so much just to get to a gig. I’m always anxious weeks before I go to a gig. I don’t drink until that night too and drinking can sometimes trigger a depressive episode in me. But when people talk to me I kind of snap out of it. When depressed I end up drinking a lot even though it just makes me worse and something must happen when I start hearing music and taking photos of the bands because I begin to feel better, sometimes even becoming hypomanic. But because of the shifting around of moods and the stress I go through from them when it comes to going up to a band member and having a little chat I can’t do it, and I like to blame it on my moods. I tell myself it’s ok if you don’t because of what you just went through. It’s understandable.

These days my social skills are a lot better than they were before. I can talk to strangers with ease so can talk to other fans if they come up to me. But when I watch them easily go up to the band and talk with them with their hopeful faces about getting something signed I feel jealous. I suddenly remember who I am and what I have. I’m always going to struggle to do that one thing they decide to do on a whim. “Hey, let’s buy some merch and see if we can get it signed!” “Okay, great idea!” I could always go get something signed myself but I don’t tend to do that anymore. I don’t see the point apart from an excuse to meet a band member. Anyway, once those moods hit they will take anyway any confidence I have about going up to the band. Last time I was just under prepared and highly anxious.

I don’t want people to pity me, I just want to be able to talk to the bands without having to worry about it, like most people can. It takes years and years of effort with several photo galleries under my belt just to have an average conversation with them, in the stuttery and impulsive way I have conversations with people, drunk while on stimulant medication. Or maybe just drunk now.

Such a tiny thing sparks such depressive feelings, even suicidal ones. If I didn’t care about it I wouldn’t try and would be fine, but the fact is that I do care about it and will keep trying until I succeed. I’m well known for my intuitive problem solving skills and the many ways I’ve thought up about just achieving a simple two minute chat with certain band members would make you laugh.

Advertisements

2 Comments

  1. Keep at it Shanti. You are so aware of your assets and limitations. You will find a way to force your brain to stop being depressed and you’ll also get a handle on things like talking to people. As you said, time, time, time. Allow yourself the time to get it done. I’ve not met you, but I already think you are worth knowing 😉

    1. Thanks. I don’t think I would be as afraid to meet you though. Bands are just…you listen to them and paint a picture of what the members are like in your mind then all of a sudden you get a chance to find out what they’re really like, and I’m always just way under prepared. I don’t tend to hero worship the local bands like I do the international ones, so that always takes the edge off.

      I can’t really stop myself from being depressed but I can redirect thoughts, become engaged in something else and my mood begins to lighten. Alcohol is always a hit and miss. If I don’t drink I’ll stay anxious, if I do I’ll become depressed or I’ll just become way hyper which is actually preferred in that environment.

      I’m an impatient person. I want the reward now, but in these situations I just have to wait for the next opportunity to come along.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s